Have you ever been seated next to someone you don’t know at a party and asked a polite question like, ” so where are you from?” You’re expecting a relatively simple answer about where they live, perhaps how long it took them to travel, and maybe ask you a question in return. You just wanted to strike up a friendly conversation. Instead, you get their life story from the beginning to the current status. Nothing is left to your imagination. Every detail was explained with enthusiasm and commitment. By the end of the night, you’re exhausted. Or perhaps your partner has come home from work and you ask them how their day was. They have had a day from hell and they tell you all about it. No stone is left unturned! Two hours later, their saga continues. Your pre-dinner glass of wine, to help you unwind after your own long day, just isn’t going to work on this occasion. This can also happen in writing.
This is Word Vomit.
As a writer, especially if you are writing about your own story, or perhaps trying to create a fictional character’s back story, you may think every detail is necessary.
The details required are those that give the reader the necessary information to paint a full picture in their own mind. Your story simply has to make sense, in relation to your book’s purpose, and not be contradictory in its telling.
Sometimes less is more. In fact, if the reader is still a little curious that’s a good thing. Spreading the crucial aspects of a story over a number of chapters, rather than telling all in chapter one, can keep your reader interested to find out more beyond the first few pages
How Can You Avoid "Word Vomit"?
If you overthink and over-plan your writing, you may find that your words aren’t flowing smoothly.
However, to avoid “word vomit” some high-level planning can be extremely useful.
The key is to remain focused on “why” you are telling your story and what experiences you’ve had that make clear “connections” to your why.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself before you begin writing.
These are questions to simply focus you:
- Why are you telling your story?
- What is your key message?
- When you recount your story in your own mind, is there a climax or perhaps two or three climatic moments that are crucial to tell?
- Are there parts of your story that are not interesting or perhaps inappropriate to tell? (ie: they affect others who value their privacy)
- Is there someone, who knows your story well, who you can talk to about what is vital to include and what would constitute “word vomit?”
You now have a high-level plan and it’s time to start writing your memoir.
One Last Tip
To avoid having “Word Vomit,” let’s leave you with one last tip.
Start writing an Introduction to your book.
This allows you to introduce yourself, tell your story at a summary level, and set the scene, encouraging your reader to journey with you through your book.
Get your introduction right and you will have a good guide to keep you on track, as you write your upcoming “best seller,” without any worry about “word vomit!”
Written by Samantha Moss
Samantha Moss is a retired management executive, writer, podcaster, and IWP-published author of My Medical Musings. She uses her writing talent to provide support and encouragement for those living with chronic illness via her own blog and online support forum. She is a passionate patient advocate, raising awareness about what it is like living with chronic disease and how it is possible to find new ways to live a full and rewarding life.